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Emotion Regulation Among Preschoolers on a Continuum of Risk: The Role of Maternal Emotion Coaching

Abstract

Parental emotion coaching involves acknowledging and validating children’s feelings, as well as guiding them on how to manage intense or negative feelings. Although parental emotion coaching has been identified as a potentially important factor for children’s emotional development, research into this topic is scant. The present study examined whether maternal emotion coaching can play a mediational role between family risk (i.e. economic disadvantage, family stress, and maltreatment) and emotion regulation in preschoolers. Seventy-four preschoolers, aged 46–58 months, and their maternal caregivers participated in an observational laboratory study, including a narrative task in which mothers and children reminisced about a mildly upsetting event. We coded these conversations for maternal emotion coaching behaviors with the Family Emotional Communication Scoring System. A family risk score was obtained via the Family Events Checklist and demographic data. We measured children’s emotion regulation with the Emotion Regulation Checklist. Increased family risk was associated with both reduced child emotion regulation and reduced maternal emotion coaching. Maternal emotion coaching partially mediated the relation between family risk and child emotion regulation, in particular child emotional lability. The findings support further research into the possibilities of training mothers in high risk families in emotion coaching skills in order to foster their children’s emotional development.

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Acknowledgments

This study was supported by a Grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (P30 MH 46690, PI John Reid).

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The authors report no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to B. Heidi Ellis.

Additional information

Amy Reiss was affiliated with the University of Oregon at the time work was conducted, however, she is no longer affiliated with the University of Oregon.

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Ellis, B.H., Alisic, E., Reiss, A. et al. Emotion Regulation Among Preschoolers on a Continuum of Risk: The Role of Maternal Emotion Coaching. J Child Fam Stud 23, 965–974 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9752-z

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9752-z

Keywords

  • Emotion coaching
  • Emotion regulation
  • Emotion socialization
  • Family stress
  • High-risk families